Facing a charge for theft from a motor vehicle can be stressful, and thinking about what can happen with a conviction can be frightening. But aside from possible jail time, it's important to consider how a criminal conviction can affect your future educational and job prospects. Fortunately, some options exist to clean up a criminal record in Pennsylvania.
Expunging your record is typically the most thorough way to remove arrest and court records. But in Pennsylvania, you can't expunge most misdemeanor and felony convictions except under very limited circumstances. Even if you don't qualify to expunge your record, you may be able to seal it under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate or Act 5 legislation.
Pennsylvania Law Concerning Theft from a Motor Vehicle
Pennsylvania law defines theft from a motor vehicle as:
A person commits the offense of theft from a motor vehicle if he unlawfully takes or attempts to take possession of, carries away, or exercises unlawful control over any movable property of another from a motor vehicle with the intent to deprive him thereof.
18 Pa. Stat. § 3934 (1999). So, taking someone else's property from a car qualifies as theft from a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania.
Penalties for Theft from a Motor Vehicle
The grading of your theft from a motor vehicle charge will vary based on the circumstances and the value of the stolen property.
- Misdemeanor Theft from a Motor Vehicle Penalties Theft from a motor vehicle is a third-degree misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is less than $50. The penalty for a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $250 to $5,000. Theft from a motor vehicle is a second-degree misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is $50 or more and less than $200. The penalty for a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Theft from a motor vehicle is a first-degree misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is $200 or more. The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor conviction in Pennsylvania is a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
- Felony Theft from a Motor Vehicle Penalties While theft from a motor vehicle is typically a misdemeanor, if you have a conviction for a third or subsequent offense within five years, it is a third-degree felony. The crime becomes a felony, regardless of the value of the stolen property or the grading of your prior convictions. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony is punishable by a fine of $2,500 to $10,000 and up to seven years in prison.
Sealing Your Theft from a Motor Vehicle Misdemeanor Record Through Clean Slate
In 2019, the Pennsylvania legislature passed groundbreaking new “Clean Slate” legislation, effectively allowing some people with criminal records to start over with a clean slate. Through this legislation, the state will automatically seal the records of those who qualify. Before Clean Slate, many people qualified to seal their records but never petitioned the court to do so, either because they didn't know they were eligible, or the process was too cumbersome. Now, the state will automatically seal your record if:
- You have a conviction for a summary offense, which is a grade below a misdemeanor,
- You only have a conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- You have a conviction for an ungraded offense or a misdemeanor punishable by two years or less in prison, or
- You don't have a conviction because the prosecutor dropped the charges against you, or the court found you not guilty.
If your conviction is for a second-degree or third-degree offense for theft from a motor vehicle, you may be eligible for automatic sealing of your record under Clean Slate.
Sealing Your Theft from a Motor Vehicle Conviction with an Act 5 Petition
If you don't qualify to seal your record automatically under the Clean Slate legislation, you may be able to petition the court to seal your record under Act 5. Act 5 sealing doesn't happen automatically; you'll need to ask the court to seal your record. But Act 5 applies to a wider range of convictions under Pennsylvania law.
You may be eligible to ask the court to seal your record under Act 5 if:
- Your conviction is for a misdemeanor or ungraded offense punishable by five years or less in prison,
- You've waited ten years after completing your sentence to petition the court for sealing;
- During the ten-year wait, you've had no additional arrests or prosecutions for any crimes punishable by a year or more in jail.
If you have a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for theft from a motor vehicle, you may qualify to petition the court to seal your record under Act 5. However, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania sealing attorney to discuss your best options.
Sealing Felony Records for Theft from a Motor Vehicle
If you have a third-degree felony conviction for theft from a motor vehicle because of prior convictions, you can't seal your record under Pennsylvania law. Our state laws don't allow anyone with a felony conviction to seal or expunge their records, except under very limited circumstances. For example, you may be able to expunge your record if:
- You received a pardon from the Pennsylvania governor,
- You are 70, and you wait at least ten years from the time of your criminal proceedings before applying, or
- The person with the felony record has been dead for at least three years.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you have a misdemeanor conviction for theft from a motor vehicle on your record, you do have options. While it can be challenging to figure out to seal your record under Pennsylvania law, this isn't something you have to navigate on your own. An experienced Pennsylvania expungement and sealing lawyer can help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people in Pennsylvania figure out how to clean up their criminal records for years, and they can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.